After clocking nearly 2,000 teardowns over the past 15 years, we at Teardown.com have seen a lot insides of electronic devices. Interestingly, smartwatches were one of our earliest teardown targets. After recently expanding our medical device teardown program to include the rapidly growing wearable Internet of Things space, once again smartwatches are of particular interest.
The smartwatch is not a new trend; we were tearing them down in early 2000, when Casio ruled the "smartwatch" category with its trio of watches, the WMP1, WPV1, and BIZX HBX-100. At the time, these showed extreme promise as the devices of the future and promised to untether us from our desktop computers. As such, Teardown.com tore down two out of three of these devices in our research.
Casio's WMP1, WPV1, and BIZX HBX-100.
With this trio of smartwatches, Casio offered early adopters access to features like PDA, PC connectivity, built-in camera technology, and music right on your wrist. Specifications for these devices included things like 32 MB of memory for up to 30 minutes of music or a 28,000-pixel monochrome CMOS image sensor. While far from the technology seen on hips, wrists, or ears today, these were truly groundbreaking devices in the 20th century. Yet the demand and sales volumes for the devices originally priced between $150 and $350 never really materialized. It is worth noting that the watches above now sell for $200-$1,000 on eBay as collectors' items.
So, if this market kicked off over 15 years ago, why will it last now? We believe vendors and startups have access to chipsets and tools to design and manufacture truly innovative devices that provide a return (and value) when used. From a social aspect, in 2013, the terms Internet of Things and Quantified Self became mainstream in the technology industry, and the products being produced under these monikers have quickly found a foothold in mainstream society. Innovation in this segment has also been boosted by Kickstarter campaigns, which provide unprecedented crowdfunding (see Pebble's story). From a technology teardown perspective, our wearable and wellness research focuses on key IoT developments in health and connectivity.
Our vantage point for these devices comes specifically from the aspect of the incorporation of technology, and a healthy mix of cutting edge and proven is required to produce dependable results at price points that will attract a potentially broad user base. With that in mind, we compared four teardowns we've done over the past year in a longer version of this blog on Teardown.com. This blog discloses some of the key technology design wins and technologies we have documented in our wearable teardowns of four leading smartwatches. These include the Basis Science (now part of Intel) Carbon Steel Ed. B1, Pebble's PebbleWatch, Qualcomm's Toq, and the Samsung Galaxy Gear (subscription required for teardowns). It is interesting to note that all four smartwatches use the STMicroelectronics ARM 32-Bit Cortex microcontroller and have standardized on a lithium polymer battery module.
This chart compares the four devices with the STMicrodevices M3 or M4 MCU in terms of frequency, built-in Flash, built-in SRAM, package pin count, cost of IC, model MCU, and package size.
At Teardown.com, we see a bright future for wearables. In our research and discussions with technology research firms and the analyst community, there is consensus that the value these devices bring to our connected lifestyles is unmistakable. Moreover, the benefits of monitoring our personal data in a real-time way to improve our lifestyle, health, and relationships provide real value to the user -- something an app just can't do as easily.
We'll continue to tear down innovative products that reach the market and look at the evolving technologies and systems that are being used. You can follow our progress at http://www.techinsights.com/teardown.com/teardown-wearable-wellness-tech/.
Click here for the full version of this blog, including more in-depth analysis of the four smartwatches mentioned above.
— Joel Martin is senior vice president and general manager of Teardown.com, a part of TechInsights that has been doing design, integrated circuit analysis, and bill of material costing for 15 years.